Many women mistakenly think that heart disease primarily affects men. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. According to the National Institutes of Health, one in four women in the United States dies of heart disease, while one in 30 dies of breast cancer, and an astonishing 80 percent of women ages 40 to 60 have one or more risk factors for heart disease.
“Early identification and management of risk factors for heart disease through a healthy diet, weight management, exercise and stress management, can greatly reduce a woman’s risk for heart disease,” said Paula Harwood, RN, BSN, and manager of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and heart failure at Memorial Medical Center.
Harwood suggests women take these steps to reduce their chances of developing heart disease:
- Establish good, clear communication with your healthcare provider. Open and honest communication is crucial in determining if you have any risk factors that could contribute to heart disease and managing those risk factors.
- Make the switch to heart-healthy foods. Limit your consumption of unhealthy fats, cholesterol and sodium; control portion size; and add more vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and low-fat protein sources to your diet.
- Manage your weight. Being overweight is considered a “modifiable” risk factor (something you can do something to prevent) for heart disease. Reducing your weight by just 10 percent can begin to lower your risk of developing heart disease.
- Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week. An inactive lifestyle is one of the top risk factors for heart disease. Getting some regular, daily exercise can help reduce that risk.
- Learn relaxation techniques that can help reduce stress. Stress raises your blood pressure, which can contribute to heart disease. To relieve stress, relaxation should calm the tension in your mind and body. Some good forms of relaxation are yoga, tai chi (a series of slow, graceful movements) and meditation.
“So many times, women take care of everyone else and neglect their own needs,” Harwood said. “We want to encourage women to be proactive in taking care of their heart health.”
To help empower women of all ages to be proactive in taking care of their heart health, Memorial Heart and Vascular Services, along with the YMCA and Memorial SportsCare are hosting “Celebrate the Heart of a Woman,” Tuesday, May 14, 6 to 8 p.m. at the Gus and Flora Kerasotes YMCA. To register for this free, fun and informative event, visit MemorialMedical.com or call Memorial’s Healthline at (217) 788-3333.